Lee’s Summit, December 18, 2010 – Recently I spent a week in China and my only internet access was behind the wall of Chinese censorship. The Chinese Government has deemed sites like YouTube, Twitter, Blogger, and a number of other sites completely off limits. There are other sites, like CNN, Fox News, etc., that are censored. For example a friend in China showed me that if you BAIDU (the Chinese version of Google) Ronald Reagan you get the list of pages. Then roughly 10 to 30 seconds after you click on the page you are told that the page is not available.
CNN International talked a great deal about the WikiLeaks. They covered all the negative points of view possible and quoted many of our Leaders calling for a shutdown of WikiLeaks. This is very favorable to the perception that China’s sensors wish to show the Chinese people. Even America, land of “Free Speech” calls for the closure of websites they find offensive.
As I flew back to the U.S. I thought a great deal about the options we have in front of us regarding WikiLeaks and other whistle-blower sites (the 14 hour flight from Shanghai to Chicago made sure I had that time to think.)
Bradley Manning and Julian Assange conspired to release hundreds of thousands of previously secret documents. Many of the documents I’m sure that while they are embarrassing are relatively innocuous. Some of the documents are too boring to even release. And then come the ones that are truly National Security risks, and may have very negative consequences to the US and its allies throughout the world. These deeds by Bradley Manning in particular are reprehensible. I cannot imagine the great dislike for the United States, or the great need for attention, that it must take to do such a thing.
It is clear in my mind at least that I would never want to have a beer with Mr. Manning, nor Mr. Assange. I find them both unworthy. Yet, I have a completely different opinion of what should be done than my personal dislike for these two men suggests.
The Freedom of Speech, which I hate to see exercised when burning the American Flag, is still a right which I think sets us apart from the rest of the world; and a right worthy of America.
The thought of censoring the internet is far more disgusting to me than what Manning and Assange have done. In fact, should the internet be censored by the United States Government, it would give not only those two a victory, but it would give a moral victory to every single tin can dictator – benevolent or not – throughout the world.
In the fight against terrorists we’ve lost so many of our freedoms. Each of these freedoms on their own does not amount to much.
Let me point some out for you. I was in China several months ago, and was running late to the airport. I tend to pack very lightly for my long trips, so I can carry on if I must. However, I do not like to carry on my baggage because of the inconvenience it causes those around me, and the wait is not that long at the other end. I pack a full shaving kit, scissors, and other things because it is nice to have the comforts of home when on the road.
I went through Chinese security at the airport and made it to the United Airlines Security where I went through the obligatory opening of my luggage, showing them what I had, and they promptly confiscated my shaving cream (too big for the 3 ounce rule), my after shave, and my scissors. I smiled, realizing that my decision to meet with one more supplier that day had cost me most of the shaving kit. I blamed myself for it, felt embarrassed and walked down the ramp apologizing one last time to the security people.
When I got to Chicago I went through Passport Control and I remembered what it was like in the late 80’s and early 90’s when coming home was so simple. I was asked a number of questions about my business, where I had been, whom I had visited, and to explain exactly why I had gone to China. I answered the questions and was told to “move on”.
I went through customs and the nice dog that walks through the hall walked through and sniffed my back pack – I had to put it down because it was on my shoulder – and then the dog sniffed my suitcase.
Do you see how our rights, rights to private property, rights to privacy, the right not to undergo illegal search and seizure and the right to be considered innocent till proven guilty (or at least to have “reasonable cause” to search) have all gone away and we simply say to ourselves “I rather go through this, than have the plane go down because of a terrorist”?
I wonder when we’ll say enough is enough: or if we ever will?
WikiLeaks was simply a tool. The internet is simply a tool. You cannot blame the hammer for driving the nail; it was the person who handled it that cause the hammer to strike the nail and drive it.
For all of us to sit idly by and allow the Obama Administration, or any administration whether Republican, Libertarian, or Democrat to further curtail the freedom of speech, the freedom of openly sharing ideas and concepts and even arguments, is to relinquish the rights our forefathers fought to create and to preserve.
Don’t read the WikiLeaks stories without realizing that there is a chance that we will lose one more of our rights.
If you think I’m way off here, take a look at Reuters story from Friday December 17, 2010 entitled “Could WikiLeaks provoke U.S. crackdown on leaks?
Where the very first paragraph states:
“WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange’s crusade for greater official transparency could backfire by provoking a U.S. government crackdown on leaks that might entangle even journalists, legal experts warn.”
Free Speech is talked about throughout the world; but only truly practiced in a few, and nowhere like it is in the United States of America. People like Assange, Manning, Hu Jintao of China, Hugo Chaves of Venezuela, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and those who think like them would be very pleased to see us loose more freedoms, especially the freedom of speech they so often thwart in their own countries; so that we may become more like them.
Let our Congressman, our Senators, and our President know, that we the people of the United States of America draw the line at Freedom of Speech: This far, and no further!
The Lee’s Summit Conservative
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